The Anti-aging Effects of Exercise

Scientific studies show that exercise is the fountain of youth, because there are several, specific anti-aging effects of exercise.  Here’s the story…

THERE’S A lot of science being targeted at the perennial questions about why we age, and what can be done to slow it down.

Way down!

Some of the studies on aging include therapeutic interventions, such as caloric restriction, stem cells, hormonal anti-aging therapy, antioxidants and the activation of biochemical pathways like sirtuins.

The famous futurist, inventor, and newly appointed Google Director of Engineering, Ray Kurzweil, argues that in a couple of decades — not centuries – science will enable humans to merge with machines to become cyborg-like and enjoy lives of indefinite life spans.

{Read Ray Kurzweil’s March to Extend Life.}

Kurzweil has popularized a concept of  “three bridges” to immortality that a person will enjoy pretty much as a cyborg, part human, part machine.


Three Bridges to Immortality

Bridge 1

You eat right, ingest a bunch of supplements, and avoid getting hit by a bus, and if you’re healthy enough by time “Bridge 2” is built, and get on it, you’ll have the opportunity to live longer than anybody has before. So, the goal while on Bridge 1 is to preserve yourself long enough for Bridge 2 to be built.

Bridge 2

Here, use of gene therapy, stem cells, therapeutic cloning and replacement cells, tissues and organs will enable us to reverse our biological clocks.  You’ll live longer than any other generation while walking on Bridge 2, but what you seek is Bridge 3.

Bridge 3

This is the Promised Land, immortality!  Bridge 3 is where, Ray Kurzweil predicts, the merger of nanotech and artificial intelligence happens. He envisions that programmable, communicating nanobots will replace old-fashioned neurons and blood cells with more efficient units that can destroy infections, reverse degenerative changes and rewrite genetic code.

I have no way of knowing if Mr. Kurzweil’s predictions will happen.  What I do believe is that I’ve been skipping along on Bridge 1 for 30 years, with increasing devotion as my clock ticks, and what I’m doing seems to be working.

Basically, my live long and strong kick is comprised of nutrition, supplementation, detox cleansing, meditation, intimacy and exercise, the very strategies that Kurzweil and his writing partner, Dr. Terry Grossman, wrote in their book, Transcend: Nine Steps to Living Well Forever.

{See Food, Diet and Nutrition and Health Is A Comprehensive Sorta Thing}

Getting into all the aspects of what it takes to age well is beyond the ken of this post, for such would fill a book. But suffice to say, one straightforward thing to do that makes a big difference is to exercise.

It is the value of exercise on longevity that is the focus of the rest of this post. Turns out, exercise is the fountain of youth. There are several, specific anti-aging effects of exercise that you’ll want to know about.


The Anti-aging Effects of Lifelong Exercise

To explain how and why exercise is the one sure-fired thing you can do now to slow down the aging process, I’ll do you the favor of summarizing and (hopefully) making more readable a scientific report by the Journal of Applied Physiology called, I am 80 going on 18: exercise and the fountain of youth, which you can read, as well as check the sources of my forthcoming assertions, here.

The bottom line of the report:

Maximal oxygen uptake (V̇o2 max ) in 80-year olds who were former athletes, and have remained physically active all their lives, was nearly twice that of otherwise healthy sedentary 80-year olds.

“Oxygen uptake”, or  V̇o2 max, measures cardiorespiratory fitness, which is an important indicator of mortality.

Another important indicator of health among the athletic group was body fat, of which they had less, although no stats were provided on percent body fat.

OK, so the athletic group was less fat and was more fit, as measured in ways that are predictive of a longer lifespan than their non-exercising counterparts.  But is it reasonable to suggest that they’re may be other factors to consider that impact these outcomes?

Yes, three questions come to mind:

  1. Are the genetics of the athletes responsible for their large compliant hearts with big stroke volumes?
  2. How did the athletes remain motivate to exercise all their lives?
  3. Are there additional benefits accruing to fit elders that may be instigated by their fitness regime?


The Genetics of Older Athletes Only Get Them So Far

It appears that the answer to question #1 above is yes, at least partially.

The authors of this study say that it’s reasonable to anticipate that perhaps 50% of the difference in V̇o2 max seen in the 80-yr-old athletes vs. non-athletes might be due to their baseline physiological endowment.

Meaning, they were blessed with big hearts and lungs, which potentially encouraged them to be athletes, and keep exercising throughout their lives.

This is a reasonable assertion, but the fact is when such athletes stop exercising in their middle age, their V̇o2 max values are similar to their sedentary counterparts.

Yes, the genetically advantage lose their advantage.

OK, you started life well endowed for exercise, but as the years ticked by and you didn’t keep it up, your fitness level reverted to that of the dude who sat near you in college and went to program for Microsoft whilst you headed to the NFL.


You Like What You’re Good At and Do What You Like

The answer to question #2, simply put, is that success breeds success.

It’s reasonable to suggest that the athletic individuals remained motivated to exercise as they got older because they were good at it, and were rewarded for this behavior.

Quoting from the Journal of Applied Physiology report:

“Perhaps the athletes enjoyed success as a result of superior “talent” when they were young. If they also enjoyed training and competing, then a number of central reward pathways might have been activated, reinforced, and remodeled. As they aged, daily exercise and their status as “super-fit” may have further reinforced their motivation and activated these reward pathways.”


Brains Get Better Through Exercise

The answer to question #3 is that, yes, there are profoundly beneficial ancillary benefits beyond physical fitness that lifelong exercise promotes.

It’s now accepted that overall fitness is associated with higher cognitive function and learning.  Moreover, older adults with high aerobic fitness have higher hippocampal volumes and better spatial memory, providing additional protection from the age-related decline in brain volume.

This means less chances of getting dementia and Alzheimer’s.



So, with exercise, you get less fat, more mobility, greater strength, and resistance to dreaded old age diseases like dementia and Alzheimer’s.

What’s not to like about adopting a lifelong exercise regime?  If exercise is the fountain of youth, why not bathe in it!

If you want to experience a longer, higher quality life, at the very minimum, you need to exercise. If you’re ambitious, you might consider diet, detox cleansing, and something to bust up stress, like meditation and intimacy. This comprehensive approach will more likely get you to Ray Kurzweil’s Bridge #2.

Start where you are.

If the couch is your favorite perch, start by walking.  Grab a friend, get yourselves a fitbit, and record how many steps you take each day, with 10,000 being the goal. Then add resistance training, like calisthenics and/or weightlifting.

If you already exercise, but perhaps intermittently, find a way to do it regularly.

It’s a bit goofy, but my video, The Homestead Workout, will give you some resistance training ideas that you can do without equipment.

Given that in the United States, only 5% of adults are meeting what might be described as minimal physical activity guidelines, and with the obesity statistics getting absurd, it’s time to join the minority and have a long, strong life.

Get moving!  Enjoy your anti-aging effects of exercise.


Last Updated on March 1, 2022 by Joe Garma

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Joe Garma

I help people live with more vitality and strength. I'm a big believer in sustainability, and am a bit nutty about optimizing my diet, supplements, hormones and exercise. To get exclusive Updates, tips and be on your way to a stronger, more youthful body, join my weekly Newsletter. You can also find me on LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram.

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